I really enjoyed playing through The Crew; its ambition was hard not to fall in love with and the miniaturised digital playground of the United States was a lot of fun to race around in. The Crew 2 promises more – with a bigger representation of the US and more toys to play with but is it in danger of becoming a jack of all trades, master of none?
Let’s get this out of the way… it’s hard not to draw similarities with Forza Horizon and the two can exist in much the same way that Pro Evo and Fifa do. Rather than lean heavily on racing physics, braking and racing lines, The Crew 2 goes for a more arcade experience – think the Need for Speed Underground series.
Boats and planes are new to the game and add a neat dynamic to the action. Racing on the waves needs consideration of how your boat sits in the water and how to use the wake of your boat to slow your opponents. Meanwhile flying is split into racing and acrobatic events. While failing to produce adrenaline pumping set pieces, the acrobats have you flailing about in the air to complete sets of requested stunts before having some freestyle time. Racing through the air can’t quite recreate the excitement of the Red Bull air races and while laboured, they are still fun to play through.
Other pastimes that provided me with much amusement were stomping around an arena playground doing stunts and collecting points in a Monster Truck. Drag racing, which while hardly an exciting game mode, is well implemented by challenging you to perform burnouts and accurately change through the gears to get the best time. My favourite though was the drift racing. Sliding around the track without clipping the sides while chaining moves together was a lot of fun and provided a challenge I relished, although it’s a shame that drift races versus another car wasn’t recreated.
By playing through just these few events it’s easy to see that The Crew 2 is distinctively different from Forza Horizon. Rather than produce a ‘me too’ game, Ivory Tower have tried to create something special and if it wasn’t for the lackluster online environment, odd bugs and game mechanics, The Crew 2 could quite easily have overtaken Horizon as my go too vehicular playground.
Jumps, bumps and grinds are all very solid on the ride of the car, striking that arcade racer genre firmly on the piston head. Bumping off the sides of the road is done so with comedy effect, meaning you can ignore braking and just pinball around the track, but it also makes the racing less fluid because the cars don’t respond with the same camber mechanics that Forza is renown for.
Some races are also plagued by rubber banding, which is really frustrating when you shoot wide of the track and the AI go sailing past appearing to make little to no mistakes. Another frustration I had with the game was the long load times – I appreciate the world is huge – but loading a small track surely shouldn’t take as long?
The worst bug I suffered was confounded by my initial lack of understanding of the upgrade loot system. Win a race and grab some loot, which is randomly generated, before slotting it onto your vehicle to upgrade its abilities sounds simple enough, but when I hit a roadblock in progression and returned to an earlier race to grind out some parts, the time limit I was given was impossible to achieve. Was I doing something wrong? I couldn’t find a way to buy additional parts so was I expected to grind for cash to buy a better vehicle? I eventually found the solution – quitting the game entirely and rebooting.
My final frustration with The Crew 2 concerns the opening sequence, which takes place during the game’s main event – LIVE XTREM – racing across all disciplines. As you finish one type of race the world zooms and twists like something out of Inception or Doctor Strange before your vehicle transforms into a new one, it’s absolutely awesome but is unfortunately only prevalent during this opening sequence and is a missed opportunity to inject some additional personality into the game.
Despite this, there are some cool moments and The Crew 2 makes great use of its environments, offering chances to make giant leaps from building-to-building or plunging from the Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, with a fast travel system that allows you to hop from event to event, you won’t see much from the excellent landscape that has been crafted, unlike Forza Horizon, there’s little incentive in driving from race-to-race. While I applaud the option of jumping from event-to-event, taking away the need to exist within an open world makes the whole experience much more like any other racer where you just select one track after another.
Despite the size of the world, it is very devoid of life and activity. During races animals skimp past your vehicle often narrowly missing death, while pedestrians jump in horror if you career wildly off the road, but traffic is otherwise absent. I caught glimpses of brake lights as cars in front disappeared like ghostly apparitions. After a reboot traffic issues seemed to be remedied slightly but the world was still too sterile and planned, it was like I was in the Truman Show.
Sadly, my initial question wraps up The Crew 2 neatly. Despite great vision with some truly wonderful moments and some fantastic arcade racing, the game has set its sights too high. With such a vast canvas and an array of events aiming to please every petrol head, the game struggles to show its soul.